Book Love: Eleanor & Park (Contains Spoilers)

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Nothing ever ends” or “I love you”?

No matter which was written on that postcard, I think the meaning is clear.

Understandably, a lot of readers were upset by Rowell’s ending, and although I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Really, Rainbow?” after I finished, I am happy with how she left it. Unfinished. I like to think that she couldn’t tear herself away from the characters or relationship she created. I like to think that she couldn’t imagine just one ending to their story (because maybe it has no ending) and she decided that it would be a disservice to her readers if she planned out an ending for them. She wasn’t afraid to let her readers choose their own paths. She also managed to give us some hope. There is still one question sitting at the forefront of my mind, though. What took her so long to write him back?

I have to commend Rowell for creating something so unforced and right. For creating something worth reading and for managing to put love, which is sometimes so unexplainable, into words.

I can see this novel being extremely influential to a lot of teens who don’t exactly fit society’s mold and don’t really want to. Eleanor wasn’t different for the sake of being different; she was just being who she wanted to be and being her truer self, which happened to be a very “unconventional” young lady. I had so many friends like her in high school. I can’t help but look back on the dust jacket and wonder if Rainbow sees a bit of herself in Eleanor as well. More and more lately I’ve wondered just how much authors place themselves within their characters. In my opinion, John Green seems to do it often (Paper Towns & Looking for Alaska).

Even though I loved Rowell’s story, I’m going to be frank on why it didn’t receive five stars from me. I found her characters believable, but I never really got a good grip on how Eleanor looked, apart from the big red hair and outfits suggesting she got dressed in the dark. Her peers in the book make her out to be ugly, but Park doesn’t seem to care because he cares about everything else. So, Eleanor is “so ugly”, but Park used to date Tina, who is supposed to be the hottest girl in school. It seems like a big switch. I’m not saying it’s never happened, but it’s a stretch. For awhile I assumed Eleanor looked just like Rowell. The collector’s edition had pictures on the inside covers if anyone wants to check those out.

Another thing I found perplexing was the difference between Richie and Tina. All the blame is slated toward Tina the whole time even though we know Richie is a pain at home. Tina bullies Eleanor on the bus, Tina used to date Park, and Tina messes with Eleanor in gym class almost every day. Obviously, we believe wholeheartedly that Tina is out to ruin Eleanor’s life. But wait, don’t forget about Richie! I find it hard to believe that a grown man with the ability to ruin her life in other ways would take the time each week to sneak into her room and scribble mean things onto her textbooks. It’s just another stretch that I can’t get over. Richie had to break up Eleanor and Park’s happiness somehow, but I feel like it could have been easily done in a number of other more plausible ways.

This is what made it just a four-star book for me. Nonetheless, I was captivated by Rowell’s story and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to other young adults. I plan on reading Rowell’s other books, and I think she’s a terrific storyteller.

Goodreads rating: 4.16
Recommended for: Teens, Misfits, 80s Kids

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